By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Things got heated at the first of two community listening sessions with Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales. Earlier this week, Morales along with several of members of his team, were present at the Unity Gospel House of Prayer, 1747 N. 12th St.
The community listening session was held by the Fire and Police Commission (FPC) as a way for Morales to engage with the community. The sessions were created shortly after it was announced back in December that the FPC had reappointed Morales as chief for an additional four years.
According to a commission board member in attendance, the forums was designed for community members to ask the chief questions and determine his credibility for themselves.
After acknowledging that he doesn’t accomplish tasks on his own but that it takes a team effort, Morales opened his statements with a promo video made two years ago in spring 2018. The video focused on the need to rebuild trust and for an honest relationship between the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) and Milwaukee residents.
Morales said that this upcoming summer, Milwaukee will be in the national spotlight thanks to the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
“Milwaukee is something to be proud of and the leadership needs to work together to make it shine,” Morales said.
As police chief, Morales is considered the face of the MPD. He said that since becoming chief, he’s reorganized the department, returned 100 officers to patrol, created the MPD Public Interactive Database, decreased crime and more.
One of the MPD’s biggest accomplishments is that crime decreased by 25 percent from 2017 to 2018 and that homicides are down.
“There’s a lot of progress here, but a lot more has to be done,” Morales said.
He noted that Milwaukee is a safe place to live, work and raise a family, but issues such as gun violence, domestic violence and reckless driving continue to plague the city. Morales pointed out that homicides and non-fatal shootings occurring in Milwaukee are often related to domestic violence and drugs.
Desiree Brown, one of the community members in attendance, brought up the topic of reckless driving. She wanted to know how the police defined reckless driving and how the department plans to address it. Brown likewise noted that a lot of the department’s methods seems to be a direct attack on African Americans.
Chief Assistant Michael Brunson said that reckless driving is defined as someone who endangers the safety of another while in a motor vehicle. This could include going 25 mph over the speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic and joy riding. Brunson said that the first offense will result in a citation.
If someone sees reckless driving, they can call 414- 933-4444.
“We don’t have all the solutions,” Brunson said. “It starts with education and at home.”
During his presentation, Morales said the MPD has a plan designed to reduce reckless driving. There’s education, engineering and enforcement. Broken down, education includes a youth summit and public service announcements; enforcement is Take it EZ Milwaukee, a reckless driving/carjacking taskforce and a reckless driving reduction initiative; and engineering is complete streets (DPW).
Elizabeth Brown, who lives in District 7, asked Morales why it takes so long for the police to respond to incidents in her neighborhood. She said that it can take upwards of an hour for a police officer to arrive on the scene.
“How long do we hold on?” she asked. “How long is too long”
Pastor Marlon Lock who moderated the event, said that as a former police officer the MPD had a priority list to follow. So, if several crimes were reported at once, the police might first respond to the more pressing one such as a shooting.
Christal West, a Milwaukee resident, said that it’s not just about the police. There need to be men and women standing up for the community. She said that people need to choose to be better in order to better the community.
Morales will be hosting a second listening session at UMOS, 2701 S. Chase Ave., starting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 27. All are welcome to attend.